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How can we become better intercultural communicators?

Rob Williams
Principal Lecturer, University of Westminster
ICC Board Members and the Former Chair of the ICC
"How can we become better intercultural communicators?"



Former Chair of the ICC, Rob Williams has over 30 years experience in language education as a teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer, assessor and consultant in both the state and private sectors. He also trained as a conference interpreter and for the past 15 years has been increasingly involved in teaching intercultural communication directly in company and within trainer training.

He is currently a principal lecturer and Director of Teaching and Learning in the department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Westminster, where he teaches on the MA TESOL (focusing on Testing and Materials Development) and is course leader for the MA International Liaison and Communication, a pioneering course, training people to be the bridge across communities and between language groupings. He spent 8 years as Director of the UoW/Ministry of Defence Languages Examinations Board, running mediation examinations at four levels in up to 47different languages. He regularly speaks at conferences across Europe and beyond and has been heavily involved in wide range of EU projects, producing language teaching and intercultural communication materials for specific target groups and specific delivery platforms, as well as writing a teacher training handbook.

He is a passionate believer in the need for improved communication as a means to greater social understanding, and feels that maintaining high quality language instruction combined with intercultural competence goes a long way to achieving this. Within the ICC, Rob's main focus is on structural management and quality assurance. Rob has helped greatly to shape the content and form of the EUROLTA programme.



Much has been made of the need to include culture and intercultural communication competences within language education. The growing movement of peoples and the phenomenon of migrant communities establishing themselves in new lands has raised a number of issues for language education.

At policy level there are issues such as: What insistence is placed on learning the language of the host country? What level of mastery is required? How will this be achieved? What resources are available? Etc.

But whatever resources are supplied and whatever decisions are made, it is what happens at practitioner level that counts. I imagine all of us in language education would consider ourselves open to language communities from the wider world. But how well equipped are we to include intercultural communication in the classroom? Are we aware of how what we say or do might be received? How might we diffuse conflict? What training have we had? If our methods don’t correspond to learners’ perceptions of education, might we not be a barrier to their success rather than a facilitator of it?

This session draws on issues raised at IATEFL Glasgow 2017, on projects such as COMOVIWO as well as reports of classroom practice and considers the challenges facing language educators when working with migrant communities as well as sharing some practical ideas for the language classroom and for teacher training.


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